July 27, 2015

Course review – Scaling Agile and Organisational Change

Earlier on this year, I ran a 2 day course on Scaling Agile and Organisational Change. As far as I know, this is the only course to cover the major scaling frameworks and give some guidance as to when, what and most importantly why to use each one.

We started the day with a slightly adapted quote from Frederic Laloux’s book on ‘Reinventing Organisations’(1), which was “Organisations rise (or fall) to the level of consciousness of their leaders”. We then did an exercise to find out what kind of leaders we all were based on Jim Collins’ Levels of leadership from the Harvard Business review article(2).

We then travel on a journey that starts at the beginning of the universe itself. It is a journey of organisational change and the solutions we have come up with so far on our epic human evolution story.

We get to the machine type organisation fairly quickly and dig into why Agile is so important right now and why it is changing the world in which we live in.

We quickly pass through some basics of single software team Agile and on to why scaling is the hot topic.

We look in detail at the Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) Framework and do some practical work on mapping our organisations into the DAD goal decision framework to determine what things we need to do to get ready to scale.

Things like additional finance for infrastructure for continuous testing and deployment come up, as well and a re-alignment and more time needed from Product Owners. Common themes on the road to scale.

Our next stop along the great epic journey is Lean. No organisational change initiative would be complete with understanding the tools and insights that Lean gives us. In fact we learn the both SAFe and LeSS are heavily based on Lean.

Just before the end of day one, we take a look at transformation strategy and the role of Coach and what that means.

Day 2 starts on time with a deep dive in the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), with the big picture, values, principles and practices. Starting with the Portfolio game from Mark Richards, kindly lent to me by Darren from Radtac, we learn about portfolio prioritisation.

Moving on to the release train, our journey explores the multitude of roles and we debated on the true ‘agileness’ of the SAFe approach. When is it right to use SAFe and when is it not?
Opinions differ a lot here and it depends again on context and culture.

After lunch, we continue the journey on through motivation and discover that complexity comes not so much from complex technology, but from the fact that people make up the system and people add a non-deterministic element to the mix.

Motivation becomes a key part in the process and we discover what real motivation looks like in an organisation and how to achieve it. We weed out the bosses who say or believe they are providing motivation and find that it comes from community.

With community allowing us to transcend the formal hierarchy, we move towards a deep look at Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) and now we can truly start to embody the values of Agile for the first time.

Organisation structural changes are necessary and we look at why and how. We pay attention to component based teams and how to more towards feature teams and product value flow.

We move on to the family and community based organisations that value empowerment and servant leadership. We see the social mask for the first time start to diminish.

We then move on fractal based organisations, higher purpose, true courage and human wholeness at work. Using a workshop from James Priest we discover a new way of finding consensus better than the manager, better than the volunteer and better than self-organisation.

We wrap up looking at decision making based on fear and scarcity versus a feeling of abundance and trust.

The course finished on time and the feedback was very encouraging. I am looking forward to making a few improvements and running the course again in October.


1 Frederic Laloux’s book ‘Reinventing Organisations’. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Reinventing-Organizations-Creating-Inspired-Consciousness-ebook/dp/B00ICS9VI4/

2 Jim Collins – 5 Levels of leadership: https://hbr.org/2005/07/level-5-leadership-the-triumph-of-humility-and-fierce-resolve

Simon Powers is the CEO and founder of Adventures with Agile. He has over 20 years’ experience helping very large organisations to thrive in the market and to be better places to work. His approach led him to create our transformative ICAgile Certified Enterprise Agile Coaching training courses, which run worldwide and online. Simon is one of the first ICE-EC experts in the world.